The Cataract Express Continues to Help Patients Receive Life Changing Treatment

9th, March 2020

Another successful Cataract Bus from Cork helping patients regain their sight as they attend cataract procedures within Kingsbridge Private Hospital, Belfast.

Life Changing Eye Procedure Available At Belfast Hospital

Writer Leo McMahon
Cataract treatment is made possible by the Cross Border Directive (CBD) Scheme which allows a patient to travel to another EU country and receive care there. The fee (just over £2,000) is initially paid for by the patient but refunded later by the HSE. Despite Brexit, the UK and Irish Governments have agreed to continue the arrangement.

Back in 2017, TDs Michael Collins (West Cork) and Michael Healy-Rae (Kerry) organized the first bus and numerous trips have been made since benefiting hundreds of patients.

As one gets older, the lens in the eye gradually becomes less transparent resulting in blurred vision. Public patients could be waiting up to three years to see a consultant and up to a further two years to obtain surgery in the Republic of Ireland by which time their vision could be seriously or totally impaired. At Kingsbridge Hospital, where appropriate, the cloudy lens is replaced with a clear artificial in a quick and painless procedure resulting in significantly improved vision.

Figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund show an ophthalmology waiting list of over 40,000. At Kingsbridge, about 100 eye operations per month are carried out under the CBD and several other procedures are available.

Speaking to The Carrigdhoun, South, East and Cork City bus organizer, Ben Dalton-O’Sullivan, new independent County Councillor for Carrigaline Municipal District, recalled that for him it started off with an email on New Year’s Eve 2018.

‘I saw what Michael Collins was doing in West Cork and always regarding myself to be pro-active, I emailed Kingsbridge Hospital and got a reply from CB administrative assistant Niamh Moloney in the office who told me that if I could get a bus and accommodation for patients, the hospital would do the rest.'

Long before he was elected to County Hall, Ben, a UCC BSc student of Government, said: ‘I put the idea out on Facebook and with great help from local media, organized my first bus in late February 2019. There were 14 patients plus family and friends and while it was totally new, stressful to organize and the phone bill was massive, it was a huge success and it has got easier’.

Further trips followed in June, October and last month, said Ben who recalled how satisfying it was to hear the delight of patients.

Since his election to the county council last May, Ben has consistently called on the Dept. of Health to recruit more consultant ophthalmologists, adding that rooms are available in various hospitals in the city and county.

Why do it?

‘To me, it’s personal. There are many out there, some living on their own, who can no longer drive because of poor eyesight and are genuinely afraid they will go blind. Some are waiting years for a procedure that can take less than 10 minutes and of course most of the money is fully refunded’, said Ben, adding that this wasn’t always the case, even with insurance, if opting for private in the Republic costing a lot more.

‘So for anyone who is concerned, my message is contact Ben at 089 4690352. You don’t have to wait to see a consultant, just go to an optician or get a referral from your GP and book your place on the cataract express,’ he added.

Service to continue

In the aftermath of Brexit Day on January 31st, there was good news for Cork patients from Mark Regan, CEO at Kingsbridge Private Hospital re cataract and other procedures: ‘There will be no change in how the Cross Border directive is implemented in Ireland until at least 2021. Legislation exits in the Dáil with provisions, if required, that will allow the Minister for Health to make orders and regulations to enable necessary healthcare arrangements, including analogous CBD arrangements, to be maintained between Ireland and the UK in a no-deal scenario. So in short it’s very much business as usual.

‘There’s more info on our website. Our CBD team can also advise on which treatments are covered – as we do many hip and knee replacement, gynae, urology, spinal and many more as well as cataract. The team is currently in Cork visiting GP surgeries to tell them about the initiative,’ said Mark. 

Pictured: (1) Donal and Breeda Bermingham, Carrigaline with organiser Cllr Ben Dalton-O'Sullivan ahead of Donal's Cataract Surgery. (2) Some of the patients who travelled from Cork on the Cataract bus in good form after their procedures. 

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